- Alma School District
Hurlburt Happily Anchors Alma's O-Line 8/27/21
Hurlburt happily anchors Alma’s O-Line
By Kevin Taylor
By his count, Zane Hurlburt estimates 74 announcers have mispronounced his last name over the years at different sporting events.
No more, no less.
But he's good. In fact, the jovial Alma center couldn't be happier.
"I've started every year, but there were times in the eighth grade when I wasn't doing very good," recounts Hulburt, an undersized but highly motivated center.
"I knew what I had to do, but I couldn't play as well as some of the other kids," he continued. "But I've lost weight, I've gotten a whole lot more vocal, and I've actually put a lot more work into football than I have in the past."
Hulburt's fortunes changed on a dime early in the 2020 season when, during the third week of the season, he was thrust into the starting lineup as the team's center.
He's been there ever since.
"There was a lot of pressure my sophomore year, having to start the third week of the season," Hurlburt said. "I didn't even have JV snaps before that. It was lucky that we won the game, but it was something I was glad to do."
Next man up.
"It was more about getting my snaps consistent because I hadn't snapped since seventh grade," Hurlburt said.
Because of last season's experience, Hurlburt is among a handful of returning linemen for coach Rusty Bush and Co. And, because he's so adept at the center position, the Airedales were able to move regular center Nathan Smith to guard.
Smith plays a lot of noseguard, too, so moving Hurlburt to center was a no-brainer for offensive line coach Vander Bowden.
"It's one of those things - you can either do it or you can't," Bowden said. "It's muscle memory. You have to get to the point where you don't even think about it. He's consistently gotten a lot better."
"I'm a little bit slower than most people, but I feel like I'm one of the stronger ones, too," Hurlburt said. "I just work from a much smaller space."
Hurlburt played some center when he was younger. Back then, he could only dream about what it might be like to dress in the locker room next to quarterbacks, receivers, and other linemen.
"These were the guys I looked up to," he said. "Even in the fourth and fifth grade, and then coming here, I don't know how to explain it.
"It’s not something I thought would ever happen."
Zane Hurlburt's No. 63 football jersey stands out, the west sun piercing its way through the hot August sky.
Football in Alma means something.
"It's a sense of pride knowing that I'm only one of the few kids that's ever going to wear that Alma logo," he said. "I'm going to play football; I'm going to go to this school. It's something special that no one else has."
Go hard, play longer
Hurlburt said he appreciates Bowden's no-nonsense approach.
"He's got a fine line between work and play," Hurlburt said. "He makes sure we're doing the work. He's made it to where we actually like playing."
Bowden came aboard last spring. In fact, his official first day of work wasn't until August practice started in earnest.
"He's really taught us fast, but now that we've got it down, we're running the offense way better than we ever have," Hurlburt said. One of the big reasons the Airedales hit the field like a finely-tuned machine was the way the work they put in over the summer.
"I know it wasn't as intense when I was younger, but this off-season and summer workouts have been the best we've ever had," Hurlburt said. "We've been explosive; everybody wants to be here.
"To me, that's a big part of it."
Hurlbert believes the team is a "million miles" from where they were this time a year ago.
"He's done a great job of learning the offense," Bowden said. "I came from college, and for a lack of a better term, I was like, 'This is how we're going to do it.' He's done a great job of buying into that."